July 3, 2017: Dark Matter-like book recommendations!

If you enjoy Dark Matter and are looking for a book that is similar in spirit, might I suggest the following ten scifi novels.

Whether it’s kickass characters, a shipboard setting, an anti-villain premise, or a sense of humor, Dark Matter shares a little something with each of these amazing titles…

The Darwin Elevator (Dire Earth Cycle, #1) by Jason M. Hough

In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.

Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.

Fortune’s Pawn (Paradox, #1) by Rachel Bach

Devi Morris isn’t your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It’s a combination that’s going to get her killed one day – but not just yet.

That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn’t misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she’s found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn’t give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.

Ninefox Gambit (The Machineries of Empire, #1) by Yoon Ha Lee

The first installment of the trilogy, Ninefox Gambit, centers on disgraced captain Kel Cheris, who must recapture the formidable Fortress of Scattered Needles in order to redeem herself in front of the Hexarchate.

To win an impossible war Captain Kel Cheris must awaken an ancient weapon and a despised traitor general.

Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics. Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics. Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake. If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.

Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress.

The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own. As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao–because she might be his next victim.

Dark Run (Keiko, #1) by Mike Brooks

The Keiko is a ship of smugglers, soldiers of fortune and adventurers, travelling Earth’s colony planets searching for the next job. And nobody talks about their past.

But when a face from Captain Ichabod Drift’s former life send them on a run to Old Earth, all the rules change.

Trust will be broken, and blood will be spilled.

Old Man’s War (Old Man’s War, #1) by John Scalzi

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce– and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.

John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine–and what he will become is far stranger.

Revenger (Revenger, #1) by Alastair Reynolds

The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilizations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives.

And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them.

Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It’s their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded by layers of protection–and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore’s crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen in particular.

Revenger is a science fiction adventure story set in the rubble of our solar system in the dark, distant future–a tale of space pirates, buried treasure, and phantom weapons, of unspeakable hazards and single-minded heroism and of vengeance…

Diving into the Wreck (Diving Universe, #1) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Boss loves to dive historical ships, derelict spacecraft found adrift in the blackness between the stars. Sometimes she salvages for money, but mostly she s an active historian. She wants to know about the past to experience it firsthand. Once she s dived the ship, she ll either leave it for others to find or file a claim so that she can bring tourists to dive it as well. It s a good life for a tough loner, with more interest in artifacts than people.

Then one day, Boss finds the claim of a lifetime: an enormous spacecraft, incredibly old, and apparently Earth-made. It s impossible for something so old, built in the days before Faster Than Light travel, to have journeyed this far from Earth. It shouldn t be here. It can t be here. And yet, it is. Boss s curiosity is up, and she s determined to investigate. She hires a group of divers to explore the wreck with her, the best team she can assemble. But some secrets are best kept hidden, and the past won t give up its treasures without exacting a price in blood.”

The Wreck of the River of Stars by Michael Flynn

This is a story of the glory that was. In the days of the great sailing ships in the mid-21st century, when magnetic sails drew cargo and passengers alike to every corner of the Solar System, sailors had the highest status of all spacemen, and the crew of the luxury liner The River of Stars, the highest among all sailors.

But development of the Farnsworth fusion drive doomed the sailing ships and now The River of Stars is the last of its kind, retrofitted with engines, her mast vestigial, her sails unraised for years. An ungainly hybrid, she operates in the late years of the century as a mere tramp freighter among the outer planets, and her crew is a motley group of misfits. Stepan Gorgas is the escapist executive officer who becomes captain. Ramakrishnan Bhatterji is the chief engineer who disdains him. Eugenie Satterwaithe, once a captain herself, is third officer and, for form’s sake, sailing master.

When an unlikely and catastrophic engine failure strikes The River, Bhatterji is confident he can effect repairs with heroic engineering, but Satterwaithe and the other sailors among the crew plot to save her with a glorious last gasp for the old ways, mesmerized by a vision of arriving at Jupiter proudly under sail. The story of their doom has the power, the poetry, and the inevitability of a Greek tragedy.

The Dark Beyond the Stars by Frank M. Robinson

For two thousand years, the starship Astron has searched the galaxy for alien life–without success. Now, just as the ship is falling apart, the only direction left to explore is across the Dark, a one-hundred-generation journey through empty space.

The ship’s captain–immortal, obsessed–refuses to abandon the quest. He will cross the Dark, or destroy the ship trying.

Only Sparrow, a young crewman uncertain of his own past, can stand against the captain, and against the lure and challenge of the dark beyond the stars…

Legion of the Damned by William C. Dietz

There is one final choice for the hopeless the terminally ill, the condemned criminals, the victims who cannot be saved: becoming cyborg soldiers in the Legion. Their human bodies are destroyed and they are reborn as living weapons. But when aliens attack the Empire, the Legion must choose sides.”

 

July 21, 2013: A 17 (actually, 21) Question Science Fiction Book Meme!

The gang at http://www.sfsignal.com/ have launched another one of those irresistible SF-themed memes, what they’re calling a ” 17-question science fiction book meme for a lazy Sunday”.  I wrestled over a few of my responses, struggling with the relative worthiness of some of the titles, and finally decided to solve the problem by adding four extra questions to the meme (17 to 20) to round it out to an even twenty.  Er, plus one.

What follows are my responses.  Answer as many of the following as you can, in the comments section of this blog and over here: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2013/07/a-17-question-science-fiction-book-meme/#more-79721.  They’d love to read your feeback!

1. My favorite alien invasion book or series is…?

1

The Ophiuchi Hotline by John Varley

It’s not an alien invasion story in the traditional sense of the term but an alien invasion does precipitate the events leading up to another (indirect) alien invasion in this thoroughly engaging novel about cloning, restored memories, and a mysterious radio signal from distant space.

2. My favorite alternate history book or series is…?

1

Watchmen by Alan Moore.

To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of Alt. History scifi and yet, Alan Moore’s non-linear, iconoclastic take on the superhero genre stands out as one of my favorite works crossing several genres.

3. My favorite cyberpunk book or series is…?

1

Glasshouse by Charles Stross

Okay, it includes enough cyberpunk elements for me to make it my selection in this category.  A twisty, turny, scifi thriller with plenty of humor and suspense.

4. My favorite Dystopian book or series is…?

1

Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

Unrelentingly grim yet possessed of a spirit and hope embodied by its determined protagonist.  I’d recommend it over the similar-themed, better-known The Road.

5. My favorite Golden-Age sf book or series is…?

1

Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

When I was a kid, my mother encouraged me to read by buying me a bunch of classic SF – Asimov, Ellison, Niven – but my favorite was Arthur C. Clarke,  and Childhood’s End is my favorite Arthur C. Clarke book.  A race of mysterious extraterrestrials visit Earth.  They bring an end to war, poverty, disease, and help usher in a golden age of peace and prosperity.  But what future plans do these alien, dubbed The Overlords, have for humanity?

6. My favorite hard sf book or series is…?

1

House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds

I could have just as easily placed this novel in the space opera category and Iain M. Banks’s Culture series here as the works of both authors share common elements: breathtaking narratives spanning the universe peopled with colorful characters, fantastic alien races,  and mind-bending technologies. Big, brilliant ideas.

7. My favorite military sf book or series is…?

1

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi.

Not only my favorite military SF book or one of my favorite SF books in general but one of my very favorite books.  Period.  Every person I’ve recommended this novel to has become a John Scalzi fan.

8. My favorite near-future book or series is…?

1

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon.

Maybe a bit of a cheat in that it may not have enough scifi elements to please the average SF enthusiast, but it’s got enough – the near future setting and medical breakthroughs – for me to include this poignant, inspiring, beautifully written novel here.

9. My favorite post-apocalyptic book or series is…?

1

The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

A “far down the road” post-apocalyptic science fiction novel in the guise of a fantasy novel chock full of allegory, literary allusions, and elusive subtext.  A challenging read, but well worth the time and effort.

10. My favorite robot/android book or series is…?

1

In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker.

Not robot or androids per se but immortal cyborgs, employees of The Company, charged with the task of traveling back in time in order to locate and safeguard (read: hide) artifacts and valuable items for sale in the 24th century (when/where they will be discovered). Complications arise when our heroine, Mendoza, falls in love with a 16th century Englishman.  And mortal no less!

11. My favorite space opera book or series is…

1

Iain M Banks’ Culture series.

Grand, brilliant, staggeringly inventive and, yes, operatic, the Culture Series stands out as a marvelous literary accomplishment.

12. My favorite steampunk book or series is…?

1The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes

A washed-up illusionist and his imposing assistant battle to save London from dark forces in Jonathan Barnes’ witty, macabre, and all-out-bizarre novel.  There are surprises a plenty in a book in which no one can be trusted, least of all our narrator.

13. My favorite superhero book or series is…?

1The Superior Foes of Spiderman by Nick Spencer

Hmmm.  Though.  This changes week to week but, right now, coming off a highly entertaining first issue, this is the series I’m most excited about.

14. My favorite time travel book or series is…?

1

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman.

An exceptional treatment of time dilation makes this one the runaway winner in this category.

15. My favorite young adult sf book or series is…?

1

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

A seminal work of science fiction whose appeal extends well beyond young adult readers, this coming-of-age tale is set at a Battle School where, amid the training, the games, and the youthful interrelations, not all is as it seems…

16. My favorite zombie book or series is…?

1

Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead.

Before The Walking Dead television series became a breakout hit, there was the comic book series – smarter, grimmer and far more character-driven than the show.

17. My favorite ship-based sf book or series is…?

1

The Dark Beyond the Stars by Frank M. Robinson

Having grown up on ship-based science fiction (and worked on a ship-based SF series for two years), I couldn’t help but include this category – and this delightfully engaging novel centered on a shocking shipboard mystery.

18. My favorite New Wave sf book or series is…?

1

Camp Concentration by Thomas M. Disch

If we’re going to have a Golden Age category, I only think it fair we include a New Wave category as well and, as much as I loved Flowers for Algernon, Camp Concentration gets the nod here.  His refusal to enlist in military service lands our protagonist, a poet and pacifist, in a prison whose inmates are subjected to bizarre, brain-altering experiments.

19. My favorite Future Tech sf book or series is…?

1

Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover

Science fiction AND fantasy.  Heroes Die offers the best of both worlds in a rip-roaring adventure that explores the effects of developed entertainment technology on eager consumers – and, in turn, the media conglomerates calling the shots.

20. My favorite Otherworldly sf book or series is…?

1

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

By “otherworldly”, I mean a story that takes place on a planet other than Earth – like, for instance, the colony world setting of this novel that gets taken over by the power mad former crew of a spaceship who use technological and physical enhancements to transform themselves into gods.  Fans of Stargate, take note!

21. The 3 books at the top of my sf/f/h to-be-read pile are…?

Okay.  One of each…

1

The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang

One of my favorite SF writers.  He’s not all that prolific but his work is consistently great.

1Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

If you like your fantasy dark, darkly humorous, and action-packed, then look no further than the works of Joe Abercrombie.

1A Terror by Jeffrey Ford.

A new release by one of the most wildly imaginative authors writing today.

Okay, those were my answers.  Let’s see yours!

December 4, 2008: The Longest Day

Mintia!  Now available in spearmint, wintergreen, and halibut!
Mintia! Now available in spearmint, wintergreen, and halibut!
The dogs...
The dogs...
...are thrilled...
...are thrilled...
...to have me...
...to have me...
...back!
...back!

I woke up early this morning, made my final preparations for departure, checked out, then spent the greater part of the afternoon strolling through Ginza before catching the shuttle to the airport. I left Tokyo on Thursday, December 4th at 5:20 p.m. and, after a nine hour flight, landed in Vancouver on December 4th, 8:45 a.m., thoroughly exhausted and ready to start my day. Again. I went through customs, picked up my luggage, stepped out into the lobby…and there was no one there to greet me. Had my wife forgotten? Was she too busy to come pick me up? Had she discovered the perfumed correspondence from the Countess, Lady Penelope Fitzwater Pearl, hidden in the recessed bottom of my armoire? Somewhat puzzled, I grabbed a cab and headed home. I was halfway there when I received an instant message on my Blackberry. It was Fondy, texting to inform me: “I’m at the airport!”. I texted back: “I’m in a taxi!”. Apparently, she’d just missed me.

While sitting out on the front steps, waiting for her to show (I didn’t have my keys), I took the time to review my trip. Upon closer scrutiny of the evidence, I’d like to break a couple of the ties I’d announced in last entry’s restaurant showdown. After further review, I’m calling Ukai-Tei the winner in the food category. While both places served up great beef, Ukai-Tei also delivered some other truly stellar dishes like the king crab, abalone, and an out-of-this-world cream of chestnut soup. Finally, in Battle Kaiseki, and again after further review, I’m going to give the slight edge in the food category and, subsequently, the overall title to Kanda. But this one was VERY close.

Also, while at Roppongi Hills, I picked up some prohibitively expensive Noka Chocolates, reputed to be the world’s finest. World’s finest marketing campaign perhaps. While the chocolates were very good, they certainly weren’t worth the price. Save your bucks and buy Amedei instead.

By the way, I’m wondering if anyone is familiar with some Japanese mints called Mintia? They’re made by Asahi and, according to the information on the packet, are both “sugarless” and “Dry Hard”. If you’ve tried them before, my question for you is this: Are they supposed to taste like fish? Is this done to appeal to Japanese consumers? And, if so, doesn’t that kind of undermine the whole breath freshening purpose?

Hey, amidst all the travel scribble-scrabble I neglected to list my Top Reads of November. Well, I was fairly busy so I didn’t really get to hit the books like previous months, but I did read one that proved so good that I made a point of recommending it to Brad before I left for Japan. Frank M. Robinson’s The Dark Beyond the Stars is an exceptional read, a brilliant SF novel that tells the tale of Sparrow, a member of a generational crew, suffering from amnesia following a horrific off-world accident. As Sparrow struggles to reclaim his lost identity, he rediscovers past friendships, secret rivalries, treachery, and the possibility that the accident that led to his standing condition may not have been so accidental after all. Brilliant through and through, The Dark Beyond the Stars has catapulted into my Top 5 SF Reads of All Time. I haven’t been this excited about a book since John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War. Highly recommended!

Speaking of reading – I realize this is the busy time of year what with the traveling to Asia and the Christmas preparations and all, but I just wanted to remind everyone of the upcoming Book of the Month Club selections. There’s still plenty of time to pick up and read one, two, or all three of the January picks in time for the approaching discussions and guest author Q&A’s. In the event it’s too much trouble to cast your gaze over to the right sidebar and inform yourselves…

The week of January 14th, we welcome author (and fellow Stargate: Atlantis viewer!) David Weber as we discuss On Basilisk Station, the first novel in his Honor Harrington series.

The week of January 21st, we welcome editor John Joseph Adams as we discuss the zombie anthology The Living Dead, showcasing the likes of Stephen King, Clive Barker, Kelly Link, and many others.

Finally, the week of January 28th, we welcome author and New Weird pioneer Jeff Vandermeer for a discussion on his book, City of Saints and Madmen.

Well, despite the fact that my body is telling me it’s way, way, waaaay past my bedtime, I’m going to try to stick it out at least until 9:00 p.m. I’ll just take it easy until then. Maybe lie back, relax, rest my eyes for just a few minutes…

Today’s entry is dedicated to MaggieMayDay and Davidd who are both going through some difficult times right now.